Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bootstrap Advice to a Small Specialty Publisher

By Ned Barnett

I review most of the books published (on WW-II Aviation) by a small specialty publisher in Montana. Recently, I offered to help with suggestions for promoting their newest book (which is great); they took me up on the offer, and this is what follows. While the advice is specialized, a flexible mind will see how this could apply (by extension) to almost any non-fiction title. Since this is both real-world and current as of today, I thought I'd share it with you ... (the names have been changed to baffle voyeurs).

In one of your emails you mentioned something to the effect that you hope this book is getting proper international PR - do you have some pointers, thoughts, directions that you wouldn't mind sharing in this arena? You know I do the direct email, send out review copies, and do a general sort of PR - but I am always open to new ideas.

Glad to help – this is my stock-in-trade, and I’m glad to give you some pointers. First, please check out my blog on book promotion (http://barnettonpublishing.blogspot.com/) – this is based on decades of book promotion for my own nine books and for dozens of authors and half a dozen publishers I’ve represented at one time or another. I think you’ll find a couple of articles (my Top Ten lists might be most helpful, but check out the posts and see what’s useful to you).

Beyond that, try these:

1. Make sure you have strong reviews posted on Amazon.com. This remains the #1 outlet for books of all kinds, and it’s also a trusted source of review information. If you don’t have reviews there (or don’t have enough), ask each person who’s reviewed either book to post reviews (you can’t do it for them).

2. Find every online modeling or military history website (the subject matter of the books in question) bulletin board or discussion list that deals with German aircraft, then register on those lists.

3. Create an email list of as many interested parties (former clients, reviewers, etc.) as possible.

4. Whenever a new review is posted anywhere (Amazon is good as it’s credible) post a link to this review to all these lists and bulletin boards and such - and include a web link (URL) so people can find the reviews.

5. Also, send out an email blast to all those on your list (making sure you don’t cross the line into spam – if you don’t have the technology, I can refer you to a friend and colleague who does have that technology and does all my email blasts for me).

6. Send out a press release over the Internet about the review.

a. You can send one out (keep it under 400 words, and set it up for just Montana – trust me, the Internet will get it out) via Business Wire for $300 per release.

b. I recognize that this might be cost-prohibitive – PR Web and Market Wire have much lower cost releases (I find them a bit less effective, but for my own business I’d use them for most releases).

c. OfficialWire is dirt cheap (and well worth it ). OfficialWire you pay a one-time fee of about $700 a year for as many releases as you want, any length (most other services charge a length factor). I use this to put out low-value releases, but use one of the other services (too) for more important releases/news.

7. Whenever the Fw 190 (especially the Dora) (the specific subject of this book) becomes a point of discussion (this requires some monitoring), have (author) draft a response to the discussion, preferably pointing out something new to the discussion and mentioning that more details can be found in Vol. 1 or 2.

8. Create a blog (I use “Blogger” because Google owns it and searches it, but WordPress and other outlets are available).

a. Periodically have (author) write interesting anecdotes or information (could be cut-and-pasted from the book) about the Dora, then announce the new blog article following steps #4, #5 and #6.

b. For the blog, I know (author)’s got contacts with some surviving WW-II German aces (or he did, I know time and mortality is creeping up on them), ask them to write (or write in their names, with their approval) blog articles about the Dora, or anecdotes about its use, or anything like that – the do the 4, 5, 6 promotion again

9. Contact every national and regional modeling contest (the organizers) and offer up prizes for a category – the Fw 190D (that would be my choice). They’ll sell you a trophy package and generally it’s not too expensive.

a. The real hook is that you give the two-volume set to the #1 winner, a complete set of the Fw 190D decals to the #2 winner, and something tied in but of lesser value to the #3 winner.

b. Ask in return that the award be prominently announced in advance and at the event. I am truly surprised that so few authors, publishers, model companies or after-market companies do this; it’s a great way to get publicity and promotion.

c. Also do #4, #5 and #6 above for each award program you participate in.

d. When you have winners, get the contest folks to send you photos of the models and the modelers receiving their awards (both) then throw up a web page showing them, then do 4, 5 and 6 again (a release and announcement of the winners, the prizes, etc.)

10. Find surviving aces or even pilots (ours or theirs) who have ties with the Dora. Interview them for the blog and press release, and present them with copies (for the press release), and get that out on the various 4, 5, 6 media/publicity opportunities. Co-opt (in the best possible sense) their fame and name recognition to promote your books and such.

11. Find non-profit groups (even charitable groups) and donate autographed copies to be raffled or auctioned off to raise money (and work with them to make sure the full publicity is accomplished – 4, 5, 6 above).

12. Propose to non-profit and charitable groups that they become resellers of the books to raise money. Military history and aviation museums, member associations, military reunion groups, model clubs, etc., might all become resellers. Give them your best bookstore rate and help them promote it (plus do 4, 5, 6 above).

13. Post autographed copies of the book on eBay – set your reserve minimum to your wholesale cost, and let the auctions find the market price (you might also have an eBay web store where people can “buy now”). This, by the way, could apply to all of your products – other books, decals, prints and paintings, etc.

14. Which brings up a key point. All of what I’ve proposed above for the Dora Vol. 2 could be applied to any and all of your products – books, decals, etc.

15. Related to that. If you have a book that’s out of print, you can add a bit to it (it doesn’t take much – a new updated final chapter, some additional references to the bibliography, etc.), re-copyright it, then re-release it as an “Expanded/Enhanced Second Edition” – and with POD now available, you could avoid creating inventory. The new second edition could be subject to reviews all over again – it becomes new all over again – and much of what’s proposed up above will work for each book you re-release.

16. One final note. I know you sell direct and I presume that’s your most profitable move. However, some people remain reluctant to buy online except through established vendors (i.e., Amazon) – so whenever you give a link to buy from you, also give a link to buy from Amazon. If you set up as an affiliate of Amazon’s, you’ll get a (small) commission from all book sales generated by people who link through your website. There are some people who’ll buy from Amazon who won’t buy from you, and you don’t want to lose those sales.

I hope this helps, (publisher). Obviously, this is just a quick-and-dirty tip-of-the-iceberg overview – you’ll find more ideas in my blog posts on book promotion. Also, obviously, this is what I do for a living, and I’d be glad to help professionally. However, times are tough and you and (author) are creative – if you can do these on your own, please do so with my blessing. Ever since I reviewed your AVG book and decals a decade ago, I’ve been among your biggest fans, and always glad to work with you to help you achieve success (knowing that this success will lead to more wonderful products down the road).

So make this happen, or retain me to make this happen – either way, these steps should help you to build your business, domestically and around the world.

That's it - a practical, real-world guide to bootstrap promotion of an exceptional specialty book. Adapt the advice to your own specialty market, and you can get it done, too - or call me (702-696-1200) or write me (ned at barnettmarcom dot com) and I'll help make it happen.